Sunday: Families of Faith

Did Jesus dislike families? Did he have any reason to?

John 7 records that his brothers didn’t believe in him. What about his dad, what happened to Joseph? The family would be used as an excuse for not becoming his disciple. His own apostles, at times, were torn between following him and going back to their homes and families.

Here is a particularly difficult text about this in Matthew 10.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” v. 34-35

“A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” v. 36

A troubling thing for the Prince of Peace to say.

Matthew 10:34-36 is a quote from Micah 7:6. The prophet spoke against Judah and Israel for abandoning their faith. He condemned them for social injustice, the leader’s abusive behaviors, and how those with power brutalized the poor.

Micah 6:14 says that the leaders were attempting to stockpile for themselves olive oil, wine, and grains. But they would not enjoy any of it, for it would be forcefully taken by their enemies and their swords. Jesus’ sword was a metaphor, to illustrate that his presence and his message would separate the righteous from the unrighteous.

Micah spoke of the tribulation that would soon come upon the people. That a season of desperation would lead them to betray and abuse each other. They would steal from each other, even from the members of their own families.

Such was the context in which Jesus spoke against Israel’s leaders. He was about to send his apostles to preach throughout Israel and Galilee. He warned them about hardships, and about their being flogged in the synagogues. Jesus said that the message of the kingdom would divide families.

As it was for Micah the Prophet, so it was for the Son of David. He would challenge the people to return to God, to love one another, and to eliminate greed, injustice, and intolerance from their hearts.

Jesus’ message wasn’t always received with joy.

So, it makes it all the sweeter when I see families of faith. Yesterday, in both services, we had videos of families at home who led us in prayer, in communion, and in the process, touched our hearts and enriched our souls. It was beautiful.

Jesus with families

To Close

Jesus wasn’t born to dislike people. He didn’t come to tear us apart or to divide friends and families. But he knew his message would create friction, for even within the same family, some would believe and some wouldn’t.

I thank God daily for our young families at the Southeast church. Thank you for your faith, and God bless you for sharing it with all of us.

It Seems Different, But It’s Not

1st STORY: John and Beth were experiencing the greatest moment of their lives. She had been in labor for several hours, and the happy moment was imminent. With a final push, baby MaryAnn introduced herself. Their maternity nurse, Nancy, was happy for them but was unable to avoid the darkness.

2nd STORY: Aaron Bishop was doing well. His business had been touch and go, and he wasn’t always sure it would succeed, but it did. He was fulfilled, at least in his work life. As to his personal life, Aaron was living with a broken heart. The divorce had ripped it apart, causing a canyon sized emptiness.

3rd STORY: Cynthia Anderson landed her whale, a dream job. The interview went great, they called for a follow-up, which went fabulously, and she gladly accepted their offer. On her first day as the managing CPA, while driving to work, she was in a car accident. Cynthia had a concussion, some broken bones, and severe bruising. She would be okay, but it would take a few weeks. The firm rescinded the offer.

4th STORY: Freddy Johnson had been in rehab for thirty days. He had destructive addictions that damaged him and wounded others. When stoned or drunk, he was reckless, and more than once had put his life in danger. But after thirty days, Freddy was ready. There would be support groups to attend, fences to mend, and he was determined to make better choices.

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   Life can make us feel like we are alone. Make us think that we are the only ones hurting. We wake up groaning because after opening our eyes, it hits us hard that today will be another day of heartache.

Until one day, when it isn’t.

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  While Beth was resting, John went to the cafeteria for something to eat. He was joined in the elevator by a young woman headed to physical therapy. They struck up a conversation, and he showed her pictures of MaryAnn. She explained her accident, all of it. Hearing her story, John remembered a friend who was looking for an accountant. He gave Cynthia the contact information.

   Nancy was still blue. It had been a year since her husband died and the sadness just wasn’t fading. They were deeply in love and had been trying to start a family. One evening, she went to a coffee house to read. She got her Chai Tea and sat down and soon noticed a man who brought his coffee and a book to a table close by. Before long, they were talking about their books and other things. He said he owned a software company, and she said she was a nurse. His name was Aaron, and Nancy thought he was nice. Walking home she realized that she hadn’t felt sad while talking to him.

   Cynthia had recovered enough to home. After a few days, she decided to call the man that John had recommended, a man named Aaron Bishop. They had a positive phone conversation, he requested her resume, and the next day asked her to come in. He offered her the job! She was so excited about the company, a rapidly rising software business. Maybe things were turning in her favor.

After a few weeks, John and Beth hosted a “Come Meet The Baby” party. One of the guests was John’s friend Aaron Bishop, who brought a woman named Nancy, whom they recognized as their maternity nurse! Nancy enjoyed holding MaryAnn. John had invited his new friend, Cynthia. She had called to say thanks for helping her, and he invited her to the party. She brought her friend Freddy who seemed to be more than a friend. Once she and Freddy arrived, Aaron was surprised to see his new accountant. “I didn’t know you knew John and Beth,” Aaron said to her. All the dots were beginning to connect.

Freddy got into a conversation with Beth and John, and it was clear that he was in love with Cynthia. He volunteered that he had been in rehab and was doing well. They were supporting and helping each other, both wanted to do well and move forward in life.

Seeing lives affected and changed was joyous to John and Beth. They were basking in the glow of MaryAnn, their miracle baby, for they had been trying for many years. Each of them was grieving over the loss of a parent due to the Covid-19 pandemic about a year earlier.

You see, some were grieving and some were celebrating. One had suffered a car accident. A few were lonely, discouraged, and felt lost. Some had thought that life would never get better. Some believed that no one else was hurting like they were. But somehow, life went on. They eventually found new opportunities and possibilities.

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We think perhaps that we are alone. We are not. We are surrounded by people who have struggled just as we have. Maybe different circumstances but the same sad results. But in one way or another the people around us have struggled, hurt, and felt alone, just like us.

 I pray that you will still find peace. Don’t give up. We are all the same.

Is This All a Dream?

Guess which television show aired from 1959-1964? Need more information? It ran for five seasons and was hosted by the Emmy Award-winning Rod Serling who wrote 80 of the 150 episodes.

Of course, I’m talking about The Twilight Zone, a show that was a mixture of science fiction, horror, drama, superstition, and comedy. It was sometimes scary, and other times thought-provoking, and often it was just plain weird.

Twilight Zone

I mention this because I feel like I’m caught in the loop of one of its episodes.

Key Words

  • strange
  • unbelievable
  • macabre
  • frustrating
  • unnerving
  • sad

For many of us, it’s a bizarre turn of events that we’ve never encountered.

The Unexperienced

  • home quarantine
  • social distancing
  • face coverings in public
  • empty shelves in stores
  • global pandemic
  • isolation

Face coverings

Some of What’s Been Closed

  • schools
  • churches
  • restaurants
  • businesses
  • sporting events
  • theaters

Virus Outbreak Washington

Feels like I should wake up to discover that’s it all been a dream. But I haven’t.

empty shelves

 

Affecting Everyone

It’s all the sadder when we consider all the High School seniors who will not have a prom or a commencement ceremony, not to mention college seniors.

Plans, events, vacations, business ventures, summer camps and all manner of hopes and dreams have been shut down. It’s just hard.

Are we sure this isn’t a Twilight Show episode?

Some Encouraging Thoughts

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.                                               Philippians 4:13

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.                                                                                                                                  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.                           2 Corinthians 4:16-18

IN CLOSING

No, this isn’t a TV episode, it’s really happening. But this to shall pass. In the darkness, a light will shine. With the heartache will come the tender mercies of God. In the waiting, some surprisingly good things will be discovered.

As a friend of mine pointed this out to me:

“In hurricane Harvey God told us to take care of our neighbors. In COVID-19 God is telling us to take care of our families.” 

“With God all things are possible.”

The Best of Times

I was wondering about the going rate for an outed tooth. What’s the Tooth Fairy doing these days in regard to gifting children with cash for teeth?

Tooth Fairy

In my day it was a quarter, maybe. Sounds rather paltry. On the other hand here’s a sampling of what things cost in 1961 when I was five years old.

  • New house:            $17,200
  • Stamp:                         $0.04
  • Gallon of gas:             $0.31
  • Dozen eggs:                $0.57
  • Gallon of milk:           $0.49

Compare those prices with today’s market:

  • New house:         $300,000
  • Stamp:                        $0.55
  • Gas:                             $2.50
  • Eggs:                           $2.82
  • Milk:                             3.27

I’m thinking about this because yesterday, in our 2nd service, I was talking with a five year old who had lost a tooth. I asked if she got any money for it. She smiled her beautiful smile, sans the tooth, and offered, “Yes, I got $5.00”.

CONSIDER…

The cost of housing increase from 1961 to 2020 is 1744%.

The Tooth Fairy increase from 1961 to 2020 is 120%.

“Sure, but what about wages and income,” you ask?

Average household income in 1961 was: $7,500

Average household income in 2019: $75,133

Wow, parents are making 1000% more than they did 58 years ago.

But the Tooth Fairy pillow gift has risen only 120%. Hardly seems fair. At the increase of 1000% that precious child should have awakened to a bundle of $250, cash.

Tooth fairy 1

TO CLOSE

Okay, not going to happen. And it’s likely that my math is skewed if not entirely wrong.

Either way, I’m representing for the kids.

 

Halos and Wings: Maybe?

NOTE-this December series is a narrative from scripture and from fiction. It’s the story of Christmas as told by those who were closest to the event. Please read accordingly, thanks.

The Voices of Christmas

Part Two

    There isn’t a memory of my not being here. As far as I can determine I have always been in the presence of God. To comprehend his presence requires a language that none of you speak, it’s angelic and beyond your grasp. For you were made just a little lower. Words like glory, splendor, majesty and radiance speak of his presence, but again, they are limited in scope.

I have found that many believe that we angels look something like this: 

IMG_0029
Little angels to be sure, but not exactly what we look like; close, really very close, but no and especially not the big, goofy one in the back.

    It’s believed that angels have bright, shiny halo’s and wings of fluffy white feathers, it’s a common belief. In truth, we can appear in almost any form.

THE LORD

The Lord is our boss and we exist awaiting his will. Most of our work is giving messages to mortals. Sometimes we look divine and sometimes not.

AND ME?

My name is Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. I am sent to speak to those the Lord want’s spoken to. I deliver his messages and my favorites are the messages of good news.

For example, one day I was standing with the heavenly host, just plumping and fluffing my wings, when the Lord spoke my name.

(we don’t really count time in days, it’s just for your benefit) 

“Gabriel” the voice of God said.

“Yes, Lord, how may I serve you”?

“I need you to give some news to a couple of people. Are you ready”?

“Yes, Lord, always,” I said. “What is your command”?

“I need you to speak to Zechariah the priest, you will find him serving in the temple. Tell him that his wife is going to have a baby, that they will name him John, and that he will be the messenger for my anointed one”.

This was momentous, it was huge, for we the heavenly host have known for thousands of years that a day would come when our Lord would give salvation to the world. John’s coming was the first active step towards the Messiah’s birth. And I have been chosen to deliver the message. Wow, I wouldn’t want to be around Michael tonight, I’m sure he thought he would get this one.

And then, I had no more than returned when he sent me back. He sent me to a young Jewish girl named Mary.

He said, “Tell her that she will be with child from the power of the Holy Spirit and that she is to name him Yeshua, meaning God Saves! That he will be called the Son of the Most High and will inherit the throne of David.”

Wow, talk about an important mission with an essential message. Yeshua, born to a virgin and destined to die for Yahweh’s creation. First it was Zechariah, Elizabeth and John, and now Yeshua announces the time of Emanuel, for God to be with his people!

GOD’S SON

I have served the Son of God for millenniums and now the Lord is sending his Anointed. Soon he will leave to go and do what was chosen before time, to provide salvation for the world.

THE SACRED

These assignments were crafted from the sacred and divine. There has been nothing else as important.

I tell you that I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. I give witness that his grace and mercy are coming to your land. A savior will be born to you and it will be good news for all the people.

It will be good news of the most merry kind.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

A Beautiful Day For a Wedding

Sunday afternoon I was in College Station to perform a wedding. The happy couple are members of my church and have planned long and prepared well. It was a joy and an honor to officiate their wedding as a wedding is about getting married.

Yesterday they had their wedding, today they are married.

The word “wedding” comes from the Old English “weddian” meaning, “a pledge.” A wedding is the joining of two people who have pledged to each other.

A wedding gives birth to a marriage. 

Weddings are rich in tradition and range from the fabulously expensive big white wedding to two people standing in my office. Typically, weddings contain the following elements:

  • Someone to perform the ceremony
  • A wedding license
  • Vows or words of promise
  • Rings
  • A verbal response of “I do”
  • The pronouncement of “husband and wife”
  • A kiss of some kind

I perform on average six weddings a year. Some are held in churches while others are event/destination weddings. Some are members of my church and some are from the community. Half a dozen a year doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been doing them for forty years.

Some observations from having officiated 240 weddings:

  • Grooms are typically nervous, perspire and wonder why all the expense and fuss.
  • It’s a priceless look on a groom’s face when he sees his bride walking up the aisle.
  • I’ve never seen a bride walk the aisle who wasn’t smiling radiantly.
  • Someone cries: the bride, groom, parent, grandparent, or all of them.
  • No matter what they say, wedding pictures never take “just a few minutes.”
  • Receptions are about: relief, joy, tears, celebration, pride, and a little sadness too.

Weddings are rich in tradition and laced with sacred customs.

KrisandraEvans.com | Atlanta Wedding Photographer | Yonah Mountain Vineyard
Not us, or our wedding place, but close, really very close.

I’ve performed weddings in huge churches, tiny churches, standing in two feet of snow, standing on the edge of mountain cliffs, next to rivers, in homes and wedding chapels, in the parlors of Bed and Breakfasts, in my office and all kinds of places.

The two most memorable weddings?

My own and my daughters.

 

 

 

 

The mail comes about the same time each day, it’s rarely early and occasionally late, but about the same time. Getting the mail was once a big deal but now, not so much.

It’s not unusual for us to forget to check the mail and when we do to discover its packed.

Full-Mailbox

USED TO BE

The mail used to be about letters from loved ones and good friends. It’s how people stayed in touch, but not anymore. In this era the cell phone has become our connection point. It makes calls, can email and text and facilitates all kinds of social media.

The Mail Box is less about personal correspondence and more about:

  • unwanted catalogues selling every kind of thing
  • bills
  • flyers and shopping guides
  • promotions, political stuff and propaganda

The mail box has become a wasteland of useless junk destined for the local land fill. How many trees in my lifetime have been sacrificed to produce the tons of junk-mail I didn’t request or want to receive?

TERTIUS?

A man named Tertius once wrote a letter that needed to be delivered. It was an important letter, the kind that made it into the cannon of scripture, and we know it as the book of Romans. In those days such letters were delivered by a brave and trusted messenger for the delivery was fraught with peril.

I know, Tertius didn’t write Romans, it was authored by the Apostle Paul. Actually, Paul verbalized the letter and Tertius wrote it down. In fact, he said so in Romans 16:22

“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

PAUL’S DELIVERY PERSON

But how did Paul get his important letter to the church in Rome? The letter probably  originated in Corinth, a trip of nearly 1400 miles. The person delivering the letter would need to be extraordinary.

  • courageous
  • strong
  • unimpeachable character
  • capable
  • smart
  • completely trustworthy
  • willing

The person Paul selected to deliver his mail was a Christian, which makes sense. Also, the person was a deacon, a special servant of the church known for being dedicated to the Christian community and committed to advancing the gospel.

Who did Paul choose? Who had earned Pauls’ respect to compete such a long and dangerous journey? Who did he ask to deliver his letter to Rome?

It was a woman named Phoebe.

TO CLOSE

I love the book of Romans. It’s easily one of two or three of the most important writings in the New Testament.

The mail at my house is nothing to get excited about. Imagine going to the mail box and finding a letter from Paul.

Thank you Phoebe.

A CASE For Camp

This is the week. It’s the last BIG event of our summer. We call it CASE Camp which stands for Creative Art and Science Exploration. Doesn’t that sound like fun! It’s for elementary kids and we have 192 of them coming.

IMG_0395
Not one of CASE camp’s  wonderful volunteers, but close, really very close. Actually, he’s the A/V guy for the week.

THIS IS COOL

The cool thing is that 71 of the kids are from our church and 121 are from the neighborhood. It’s the largest children’s event of our year that’s purposed at filling kids hearts with Jesus.

This week they will learn about:

  • God the Great I Am
  • Creation and creativity
  • Art and artistry
  • Jesus the Real Redeemer

It’s also four days of hanging with friends, making new friends, and having a sense of community. It’s four days of learning by exploration. It’s a massive camp to produce, the prep for materials is incredible and it daily requires 80 volunteers of adults and teens.

ME?

They didn’t have CASE camp when I was a kid. The closest I got to science was shaking a can of soda and spraying my friends. The closest I got to art involved a spray can of paint and a wall. Sorry mom, it’s true. 

THE GOAL?

Well, the goal is to instill belief, to deepen faith and to help them understand more about God and his Son. It’s a great thing and it starts this morning. 

TO CLOSE

I don’t know much about science and even less about art, so I’m not crucial to the success of the event. I’ll just write about it.

Thanks to our Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry for their constant effort to serve God by serving those to whom the Kingdom is given.

HAVE FUN!

 

Moments On High Places

WHAT HAPPENED?

My heart is full this morning, or at least at near capacity. Last night, Wednesday night, we had an evening or praise. It was glorious.

To start, one of our worship leaders, with an eight person praise team, led us in songs of great meaning and of great praise. We also had two people share their testimony about the power and blessing of the camp last week.

The celebration was all the better because many  who attended the camp were there last night. Their worship at camp was incredible because the campers were challenged to worship without boundaries, to let the walls come down and their self-consciousness to melt. They did and were able to give wholehearted praise to God.

Our worship center was lit up with energy and excitement, the people attending were of all ages and backgrounds but for an hour last night, we were one voice.

AND THEN?

Afterwards, one of our Dad’s baptized his teenage son. Probably 200 people stayed to share in the moment. While standing in the water together, he shared his son’s faith journey and then shared a little of his own. They hugged each other and the tears were flowing. Finally, after a few minutes, he immersed him into Jesus. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I know, mountain top experiences aren’t meant for every day, that’s why they’re called  mountain top, and most of us don’t live on mountains. But I wouldn’t mind having some of that as often as I can get it.

As far as I know, today will be a normal day. I’ll be in my office at the church. I’ll put the finishing touches on the lesson for Sunday. I’ll check with staff members and review whatever needs reviewing. It’ll be a regular day, but my soul will be on fire and my heart filled with joy.

THANKS

Thank you God for your Spirit. Thank you Holy Spirit for filling us. Thanks you Jesus for sending the Spirit so we could experience moments like last night.

Shalom

 

Listen To Our Hearts

A HARD DAY

Someone said there would be days like this. Someone was right. We all know tough times and discouraging days, certainly I do. But not like today.

Today, there is a funeral at my church. Actually, it’s a Celebration of Life Service. That’s what we call them now, a Celebration of Life. Mostly it means there won’t be a long-winded preacher preaching something nobody wants to hear.

basement_series_sadness-500x332
We hurt and grieve and wonder if God is listening.

The celebration allows for laughter, joyful memories and sweet stories. It’s not to prevent tears but to embrace other emotions and expressions. It’s surrounding those we care about to help them celebrate the life of the one they’ve lost. Sometimes, the one they’ve lost is a child.

Today’s service is for a little boy who died a few days ago.

LEVELS?

There are levels of grief. One is when a distant relative, whom we barely know, passes away in their sleep at the age of 89. Another level is when a young child tragically succumbs to illness or is struck down by a senseless accident.

All the deaths of children are tragic and senseless.

Arguably, the only grief that is harder than losing a child is losing more than one. Today, many will gather to support a family who has lost four children in just a few years. It is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond answers.

The things we say at times like this can seem trite or useless. Sometimes, all we can do is hug the grieving, weep with the hurting, and hope they can hear our hearts because our words have stuck in our throats.

YET, WE PRAY

We pray to Him who seemingly turned a deaf ear to the calling, ignored the praying and abandoned the grieving. We pray because prayer is what we have, along with our faith.

Gut-wrenching grief can leave the shattered with a deep-seated anger at God. We know, we try to understand, but we lack the words, the theology, or the wisdom to comfort them. And yet, we pray. We pray, for our faith reminds us that the God who sacrificed his own son knows something of loss.

TO CLOSE

So, please pray today. If words fail then trust the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf. Please forward this to others and allow this day to be a day that God our Father listens to  our hearts.

Thank you.